Performance & Music
April 22-26, 2013
The German composer Walter Zimmermann (b. 1949) came of age musically within an environment of high order, of music created from rigorously controlled parameters whose limits of expressivity became quickly known and heard. The locus of this language was the Darmstadt International Summer Courses for New Music, a set of now infamous composition seminars held annually from 1946-1970 (and which still thrive today). Supported financially by the United States military, the courses were originally designed to promote American ideals as part of a re-education plan for previously fascist or fascist-occupied areas in preparation for a move toward democracy. Part of its agenda was bringing together musicians from those areas and educating them in techniques that had hitherto been suppressed or prohibited by those regimes. These courses became an incubator of high modernism, and perhaps ironically, of big movers of history.
Composers like Zimmermann began to ask “what is new music, and how do we create it?” They were, in many respects, putting themselves at risk, breaking away from a central discourse of music, severing ties from their institutional training and attempting to overturn their aesthetic thinking. Zimmermann turned to American music as a new source of inspiration in the 70s, primarily the early music of John Cage and Morton Feldman, at a time when Western European classical music would have little to do with the scene across the pond. Zimmermann's seminal collection of interviews with avant-garde American composers entitled Desert Plants (1976) so titled, in part, because he saw their way of existence as a mode of subsistence.
This week-long symposium strives to tell the aural story of re-invention for a number of young composers faced with the challenged to create something new when it seemed as if the limits of the “new” had been already reached. Zimmermann's story is a fascinating and significant history that comes in contact with the histories of so many other musicians. The symposium will comprise several events, including three evening concerts, in which we welcome guest JACK quartet and pianist Heather O’Donnell:
Monday, April 22: Barnes Hall, 8pm
Guest ensemble JACK Quartet and friends: Featuring Feldman’s Structures, Zimmermann’s When I’m 84 and Ephemer, John Cage’s Six Melodies for Violin and Piano, Kevin Volans’s Walking Song, and Zimmermann’s Chantbook of Modified Melodies written for JACK. Roberto Sierra (Professor of Music, Composition) will give an introduction, and an on-stage interview with Zimmermann will take place.
Tuesday April 23: Barnes Hall, 2pm
Pianist Andrew Zhou (graduate student, Performance Practice, Music) gives a lecture-recital in Barnes Hall on Zimmermann’s Wüstenwanderung (Desert Wandering) for solo piano (and pianist’s voice).
Tuesday April 23: Barnes Hall, 8pm
Guest pianist Heather O’Donnell performs works for piano (with and without live electronics) by Charles Ives, Oliver Schneller, and Walter Zimmermann.
Wednesday, April 24: Lincoln Hall, B-20, 12:30-2:30pm
Talks by Benjamin Piekut (Assistant Professor, Music) on American experimentalism, Tyran Grillo (graduate student, East Asian Studies) on verbal poetics, and a keynote talk by Zimmermann on his personal use of emblems and symbols in his music.
Thursday, April 25, Barnes Hall 8pm
Ensemble X: the final concert features two of Zimmermann’s most transcendent works: Sala della Pazienza ("The Hall of Patience") for cello and piano, and Wüstenwanderung for solo piano, as well as Mauricio Kagel’s theatrical Rrrrrrr… for two percussionists and Luciano Berio’s Folk Songs for soprano and seven instrumentalists.
Friday, April 26, Lincoln Hall 316 (Kahn Seminar Room, enter through 2nd floor library)
When all is heard and done, Zimmermann gets to nuts and bolts and discusses his works to Cornell’s graduate composers in a weekly forum.
Performance & Music